In an increasingly digital world, the potential for cyber-attacks and online scams has never been higher, and unfortunately, it is not going anywhere anytime soon. It is getting worse. In 2023, internet users will be exposed to a near-endless list of potential scams, malicious attacks and data breaches.
Worse still, cybercriminals are using increasingly sophisticated methods and technologies to achieve their crimes. Typically, this involves prizing valuable information and even money from users. But as cybercriminals become more advanced, so do the methods developed to fight them.
Right now, there are hundreds of different scams hackers use to get information from their victims, and just as many ways to prevent or limit one’s susceptibility to them. But before diving into the top cybersecurity concerns, this article will explain more about cybersecurity and why it is such a threat.
- What is cybersecurity?
- Why is cybercrime such a threat?
- The top cybersecurity concerns in 2023
- What is phishing?
- What can be done to prevent phishing?
- What is ransomware?
- What can be done to prevent ransomware scams?
- Weak passwords
- What is a weak password?
- What can be done to prevent weak password infiltration?
- Social engineering
- What is social engineering?
- What can be done to prevent social engineering?
- Configuration errors
- What is a configuration error?
- What can be done to prevent configuration error attacks?
- Cloud vulnerability
- What is cloud vulnerability?
- What can be done to limit cloud vulnerability?
- Final Words
What is cybersecurity?
In short, cybersecurity is the protection of computers and devices with access to the internet. It is designed to protect valuable user information, whether it is for an online account or payment. Because so many aspects of our lives are done online today, keeping information safe is a big deal. But cybersecurity is a broad topic — after all, it means everything one does on the web — but to make things simple, here is an overview of the main types of cybersecurity:
- Network security: This refers to the security of a network system.
- Application security: The security of software and devices.
- Information security: The security concerning information and data.
Cybersecurity incorporates all these areas, and more, to keep users safe. But now we know what cybersecurity is, why is it such a big deal?
Why is cybercrime such a threat?
Cybercrime is a massive threat because it leads to the exposure and exploitation of private/sensitive data. In short, this means attackers can access details and use them to steal from victims. Usually, the end goal is to get money from them.
While attackers use countless sneaky methods to achieve this, the bottom line is they are trying to steal from someone. It is much like how a robber would break into a house or steal a wallet, but in a more advanced, roundabout way.
Just like exercising precautions for in-home security, or avoiding a dark alley at night, it is important to make online attacks as difficult as possible for hackers. Essentially, the aim is to become a hacker’s worse nightmare. So how does one do this, what are the top cybersecurity concerns in 2023 and what can be done to prevent them?
The top cybersecurity concerns in 2023
While there are countless methods of cyber-attack, and all of them are a variation of the scams this article is about to discuss. Here are the most notable concerns to online safety today:
Phishing is one of the most common cybersecurity threats anyone can face today. It is a scam that has plagued web users since the dawn of the internet. These early scams involved posing as a reputable company and emailing unsuspecting targets to ask for payment information. However, these phishing scams have come a long way and are almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
What is phishing?
Phishing scams involve sending a message, typically via email, posing as a legitimate company. It might be an email requesting payment information that looks a little dodgy, which most people usually ignore. However, 2023 is no time to get complacent.
Anyone who has ever been a victim of a phishing email will know first-hand that these scams can be tricky to spot nowadays. Phishing emails/messages are now almost indistinguishable from a genuine company’s email, and both look and sound like the real thing.
Moreover, these emails may even have designers and copywriters comprising them. Phishing has come a long way since the early days when hackers tried their luck with an unprofessional payment request.
Attackers will often pose as a financial institution and ask for payment information with a sense of urgency. Phishing scammers can even pose as someone from within an organization — infiltrating the ranks is much more effective in the eyes of an attacker.
What can be done to prevent phishing?
The best way people can prevent phishing scams is always to double-check emails, even when they come from within their company and are from someone they know and trust.
- Is the offer too good to be true?
- Does something just feel off?
- Are there flaws in the design, and is it worded correctly and professionally?
- Do the hyperlinks link out to a known, reputable source?
- Does the email sender’s address sound legitimate?
These are just some simple signs of phishing scams — it is important to be careful.
Ransomware scams equate to millions of dollars and are incredibly frustrating for anyone on the receiving end. Company or individual.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware scams are similar and often used in conjunction with phishing emails. It is where an attacker will digitally blackmail the victim into providing payment information to regain access to their files or remove a virus from a computer. These scams always have some threat and a sense of urgency.
Those who have ever received a message or pop-up that says their computer is damaged, provide or update their payment details now, or more frustrating still, they have lost access to their files and been told they need to pay X amount to gain them back, know that it is frightening and incredibly frustrating.
What can be done to prevent ransomware scams?
Luckily, there are a handful of ways to prevent or highlight these attacks.
- Always back up data.
- Double back data.
- Use security software.
- Provide staff cybersecurity training.
- Use secure passwords.
People who use the same password for every account might want to think again. Despite being one of the easiest ways to prevent cybersecurity breaches, weak passwords are a top contributor to large-scale violations, even in 2023. Crazy, right?
What is a weak password?
A password serves as the only layer of security for most single-layer security accounts, and if the password is weak, people unnecessarily expose themselves to risk. Weak passwords are easy to work for sophisticated attackers, who use specific tools to scan and crack passwords.
One of the ways attackers pray one weak password is through a guessing type approach. An attacker can use specific tools to run through thousands of password combinations, and the most advanced tools can integrate birthdays, personal information and dates into their searches.
What can be done to prevent weak password infiltration?
Thankfully, there are some easy fixes. Having hard-to-guess password combinations filled with letters, numbers, symbols and special characters is the easiest way to secure accounts. Otherwise, one can use hashing, which involves encryption to create a password string, and is impossible to reverse engineer.
Additionally, one can use a cybersecurity password technique called salting, which in layman’s terms means adding some random/special characters as part of a standard password.
Social engineering is a more advanced and sophisticated method by which a scammer will steal from a victim. It is a more long-term process than other scams, and the damage is less immediate. Social engineering involves manipulating people via social media or email to hand over information eventually.
Social engineering is where an attacker will manipulate and prey on someone’s online behavior. Typically, attacks begin with a scammer building trust with the victim via online interaction. This usually involves interacting with content and sending messages as if talking with a friend or business. But before the actual act takes paces, several steps are followed:
- Research to study the victim’s online behavior and extract as much information as possible.
- Interaction through project messages and content interaction such as commenting and liking.
- Continuing to build trust and learn about the person’s online behavior.
- Create a fake offer or call to action to scam the victim — usually a phony deal or dummy deposit, to receive something bigger.
Like with phishing and ransomware scams, people must be careful when using social media. Understand that not every account people interact with on these platforms is legitimate. Look at their followers, who they follow, where else they interact, and mutual friends/followers. This, alongside the amount/quality of the content they produce. If something seems suspicious, it may mean it is a social engineering scam.
Configuration is a super common vulnerability and perfect prey in the eyes of an attacker. It is typically down to human error and, annoyingly, an easy fix, but one that people usually realize once it is too late and the attack has happened.
What is a configuration error?
It refers to a setting flaw, such as improper file/directory permissions, unpatched security holes, default passwords and lack of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). It is basics like this that hackers love, and they can use both the web and application server to access files.
What can be done to prevent configuration error attacks?
The solution? Conduct regular configuration assessments, patch vulnerabilities, update passwords regularly, run third-party security checks, use a VPN (virtual private network) when working remotely, and keep the computer hardware safe from break-ins.
In recent years, the wide adoption of cloud tech and storage has opened up a whole new avenue of attack opportunities.
What is cloud vulnerability?
Cloud vulnerability refers to a gap in cloud-based security that an attacker can exploit easily. For example, poor configuration access management systems, misconfigured cloud storage, insecure APIs (application programming interfaces), and insufficient data compliance practices are potential areas of weakness to focus on.
What can be done to limit cloud vulnerability?
While there is no one set solution for cloud vulnerability, a secure cloud management system is an excellent place to start. Additionally, it could be wise to hire a security management team.
If someone is interested in learning more about cybersecurity and wants to make a difference, they might consider an SBU cybersecurity online master’s, such as the program offered by St. Bonaventure University. The course teaches the necessary technical and soft skills needed to kickstart a career in the industry.
In 2203, there are persistent threats that face companies and individuals regarding online security. But with some security best practices, these threats can be avoided before they become an issue. To recap what has been discussed in this article:
- Cybersecurity is an online threat where an attacker seeks to steal information.
- Be aware of phishing emails and look for suspicious signs.
- Create super secure passwords and use hashing and salting to secure passwords for all accounts.
- Always back up data.
- Be aware of potential social engineering techniques.
- Ensure proper configuration and cloud security.
Staying safe and protected online does not have to be arduous, and the threat of online attacks does not have to be scary or intimidating. But follow these best practices, limit the risk and become an attacker’s worst nightmare.